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FG to receive stolen antiquities from US, Scotland in October, says Lai Mohammed

In addition to the 1130 looted artefacts expected from Germany, the Federal Government says it will take possession of other stolen antiquities from U.S. and Scotland in October.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed disclosed this on Saturday in Lagos at a media briefing on the efforts by the federal government to repatriate looted smuggled artefacts from around the world.

“In March 2021, the University of Aberdeen in Scotland agreed to return a Benin Bronze from its collections.

“We shall take possession of this in October this year.

“We have also secured a date in October 2021 for the repatriation of antiquities from the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

“These antiquities consist of two important Benin Bronzes and an exquisite Ife Bronze head,’’ he said.

The minister said the development formed parts of the successes recorded by the campaign he launched in Nov.  2019 for the return and restitution of Nigeria’s looted/smuggled artefacts from around the world.

Mohammed recalled that in Oct. 2020, the Netherlands returned a highly-valued 600-year-old Ife Terracotta while Mexico returned a bronze piece in April 2021.

“The University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom has also agreed to return a disputed Benin artefact.

“We will soon commence the procedure for the repatriation of this highly-valued piece,’’ he said.

Mohammed said the country is currently before the Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to it Countries of Origin or its Restitution in case of Illicit Appropriation (ICPRCP) in Paris.

He said a claim was instituted before the committee against a Belgian who wanted to auction an Ife Bronze head valued at 5 million Dollars.

The minister said that the Ife Bronze antiquity had been seized by the London Metropolitan Police, pending the decision on who the true owner was.

According to the minister, the most remarkable progress in the quest to repatriate looted artefacts was recorded in Germany on the repatriation of 1,130 Benin Bronzes to the country.

“As you are aware, I recently led a high-level Nigerian delegation to Berlin, Germany, to iron out the modalities for the repatriation.

“The negotiations were tough but fruitful and have agreed that there is no going back on the issue of returning the Benin Bronzes,’’ he said.

The minister said the agreement for repatriation of the artefacts should be signed in December while the repatriation should be concluded by Aug. 2022.

He said it was also agreed that the release would neither be attached with any conditional nor be staggered.

According to the minister, with less than two years after he launched the campaign the efforts at repatriating Nigeria’s looted artefacts were achieving positive results.

“The work ahead remains tough and daunting, but we will not relent until we have repatriated all our stolen and smuggled antiquities.

“These artefacts are so cherished all over the world.

“We realise that if they are returned to Nigeria and properly exhibited within and outside the country under our control, they stand to increase the influx of tourists to our nation and earn us good money.

“Of course, these timeless and priceless pieces of work are an important part of our past, our history, our heritage resource, and allowing them to sit in the museums of other nations robs us of our history.

He stressed that, though not everyone in possession of the artefacts was willing to return them, the government remained undeterred in repatriating them and would continue to deploy all legal and diplomatic means. (NAN)

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